Last week was tumultuous on Capitol Hill, but Congress doesn’t have much to show for it. Starting with what did get passed – a short-term government funding mechanism, called a continuing resolution, was passed a spacious 10 hours before the deadline and will keep the government open until December 3rd. More importantly for our industry, a FAST Act authorization extension was signed into law over the weekend which ended the day-long furlough of some 3,700 DOT employees and resumed DOT activities. The measure will keep highway funding going until October 31st, setting up what may be a truly spooky Halloween.
On to what notably didn’t happen – the IIJA was pulled before a vote by House leadership after Democrats were unable to strike a deal within their party on the reconciliation bill. President Biden made his first visit to the House Democratic Caucus amidst the contentious confusion and counseled patience, telling reporters “It doesn’t matter if it’s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks, we’re gonna get it done” as he left the closed-door meeting on Friday. The two bills are again inextricably linked, but significant progress was made on negotiating the reconciliation bill. The timeline from here is uncertain, but a path to passage of both bills seems to be materializing.
The biggest thing left on the table is raising the debt ceiling, which is set to be exhausted on October 18th. Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell are at an impasse, with Republicans blocking Democrats from raising it on their own and insisting Democrats raise debt ceiling in their reconciliation bill. The situation has become so fraught that there is talk of exempting the raising of the debt limit from a filibuster – it is a game of chicken with the global economy on the line.